Tomorrow afternoon, the Seattle Department of Transportation will release the latest version of the Bike Master Plan Implementation Plan, which outlines the bike projects the city plans to build and study through 2024, according to sources familiar with the latest version of the plan.
In response to community feedback urging the city to restore some of the cuts SDOT proposed to bike lanes in Southeast Seattle, the new plan will reportedly include a new mile-long bike lane along Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. between the Mount Baker light rail station and I-90, as well as “pre-planning” for a protected bike lane (PBL) along MLK to Southeast Seattle; a bike lane along Beacon Ave. from the Jose Rizal Bridge in the International District to 39th Ave. S. about five and a half miles away, and some sort of new connection between downtown and Georgetown (where heavy freight traffic along Airport Way has made putting a bike lane there a political and logistical challenge).
The new update will also reportedly scale back plans for a protected bike lane on Fourth Avenue—already delayed three years from the original 2018 opening date—by replacing the planned two-way protected lane on the east side of the street with a one-way (northbound) protected lane on the west side, where there is currently an unprotected one-way bike lane. SDOT justified delaying the bike lane last year by saying that it didn’t want to risk delaying transit along Fourth Avenue during the “period of maximum constraint,” when much of downtown is under construction. The two-way bike lane was rescheduled to open in 2021, once light rail trains begin running to Northgate.
SDOT’s initial version of the implementation plan, which came out in March, eliminated miles of long-planned protected bike lanes , particularly in Southeast Seattle—the area of the city that the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board emphasized top priorities. (The mayor’s office asked the board to come up with a list of priority projects after SDOT announced that the city would not be able to complete all of the projects that had been funded in the Move Seattle levy last year.)
Although the bike board specifically identified Southeast Seattle as the area most lacking in safe bike connections to the rest of the city, the update eliminated a greenway on Beacon Ave. S and a protected bike lane on Rainier Ave. S., one of the deadliest street for cyclists and pedestrians in the city, leaving Southeast Seattle with what Seattle Neighborhood Greenways’ director Gordon Padelford called “a few scattered hilly segments” of bike lanes. SDOT, with assistance from the Department of Neighborhoods, held a series of neighborhood meetings where participants identified their top priorities; at the one I attended, in South Beacon Hill, residents said they were worried that Mayor Durkan and SDOT weren’t willing to risk political controversy to build safe, convenient bike connections between Southeast Seattle and downtown.
The proposals to begin “pre-planning” on some north-south streets seems like an acknowledgement of those concerns (as does the proposal to actually build a mile of bike lane between Mount Baker and I-90). As usual, though the proof will be in whether these bike lanes actually get built, or whether they end up gathering dust along with much of the original Bike Master Plan.